Robert and Agnes Staunton
- Date of Brass:
- Castle Donington
- London D
Robert Staunton’s brass, laid down after the death of his first wife Agnes Lathbury on 18 July 1458, is the first military effigy in the London D style to show armour with large elbow defences. This is referred to by Tobias Capwell in his recent book Armour of the English Knight 1450-1500 as introducing ‘a different vambrace typology that first appears in English art during the late 1450s’. Both of the other two examples to which he refers (at Barham, Kent, and Sherborne, Norfolk) are in the London B style and neither has elbow defences on the sheer scale that this brass displays.
Staunton's elbow defences differ from some other style D examples of the early 1460s in being symmetrical. For example the military effigy at Adderbury, Oxfordshire, has the remains of a large defence covering his left elbow, but the one covering the right is much smaller. In the 1470s, London D elbow defences became symmetrical again but considerably smaller.
Robert Staunton was the son of Thomas Staunton, esquire, and was born early in the fifteenth century (he was aged 73 years or more in August 1478). The Stauntons of Staunton in Nottinghamshire were a long-established family but Robert’s father was a younger son and came from Sutton-on-Soar (Sutton Bonnington). Part of the marginal inscription around his brass is now missing, but the Leicestershire historian William Burton saw it in the 17th century and gave the wording:
Hic iacet Robertus Staunton filius Thomae Staunton Armig. &
Agnes vxor praedicti Roberti quae obijt 18 Julij 1458. & dictus
Robertus obijt 14. quorum animabus misereatur Deus, Amen.
[Here lies Robert Staunton son of Thomas Staunton esquire and Agnes wife of the aforesaid Robert who died 18 July 1458 and the said Robert died ____ 14__ on whose souls God have mercy Amen.]
Robert’s dates were never filled in.
Robert’s status moved from gentleman in the 1440s-1460s to esquire by the time of his death in 1489. By 1465 he had remarried to Margery, widow of Thomas Walsh esquire of Wanlip, Leicestershire, who had died in 1463. (An action in the Court of Common Pleas in 1465 names Robert and Margery as executors of the will of Thomas.) From this time onwards Robert is referred to as Robert Staunton of Castle Donington and Wanlip.
He served as MP for Grimsby in 1447 and for Leicestershire in 1450-1 and 1467-8. He also served on commissions of the peace in Derbyshire and Leicestershire from the 1440s onwards. In 1462 and 1470 he was called Robert Staunton senior. His brass shows four small figures of sons at his feet, and his first wife has three small daughters at hers. In 1471 the younger Robert died, and Robert senior appears to have outlived all his children. His second wife Margery had children by her first marriage, but there is no evidence that she and Robert had children.
Robert was a supporter of the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses. He served on commissions of array in 1457 and 1459, the mechanisms by which troops were mustered, suggesting that he may have owned and used armour. (His father had served in France in 1415.) Whether he fought in any of the battles of this period is unknown. Robert was reconciled enough to the Yorkists for his busy official life to resume in the mid 1460s, even serving on a further commission of array in 1472.
Between 1453 and 1457 Robert was the earl of Stafford’s steward in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. From the 1470s onward he served Lord Hastings in various capacities, becoming deputy steward at Castle Donington in 1480. In 1485 Henry VII granted him the position of steward and constable there for life. With the change of regime in 1485 his earlier support for the Lancastrians was recognised with a post as one of the ushers of the king’s chamber, on top of which he was granted the positions of receiver and steward of Thorpe Waterfeld, Northamptonshire, and bailiff of Disworth, Leicestershire and Ilston, Derbyshire. In 1488 he was also granted the lordship of Streatley, Berkshire.
He probably died early in 1489: a retrospective grant from Easter of that year was made in August of the post of steward of Cheylesmore, Coventry, in the king’s gift by Robert Staunton’s death.
Reference: Eric Acheson, A Gentry Community: Leicestershire in the Fifteenth Century, c.1422-c.1485 (2003)
Copyright: Jon Bayliss
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